A sweater for a baby Lion

Posted in FO, handspun, made with handspun, spinning by tchemgrrl on March 14, 2013

Some very dear friends of ours are having a baby soon. When I was laid up with my ankle without any knitting, I decided that a baby sweater for them was just the thing to do.

Our friends are vegan and eminently craftworthy, so I used my first handspun cotton yarn, a 3×2 cabled DK-to-worsted weight yarn.

cotton postwash

I had two skeins of that size, about 170 yards all told. Just enough for a sweet little spring baby cardigan.

I used my old baby sweater standby of Paxton, making almost no changes to it except to space out the increases slightly differently. I even kept the buttonholes. A day and a half of sedentary living and Downton Abbey watching had it complete. On the weekend, when I was doing well enough to get upstairs to the button stash easily, I finished it off. Having so little uninterrupted knitting time, I forget sometimes how fast things can go when you work on them for more than 5 minutes at a go.

Sweater for Lion

It being my first cotton handspun, the fabric is a bit more rustic and knobbly than usual, but it’s soft and washable and is slightly variegated due to my switching between colors of the naturally-colored cotton on several of the plies, which will help hide baby dribbles. And having knitted it up, I’m now pretty confident that it will wear well. (Well enough for the 5 minutes that newborn clothes are worn, at least.)

I hope that baby and mamas get some good use out of it!

Aqualime Cowl

Posted in FO, handspun, knitting, made with handspun, spinning by tchemgrrl on February 22, 2013

I spun up this yarn last fall:

aqualime batt

I did some new-to-me things with the color so that one ply of the two-ply yarn would shift slowly from blue to lime, while the other ply would be more random. I really wanted to see how it would come out! (Plus, I’m running a spinning class soon for which this would be a good sample.) So I knit up a quick little cowl, and finally I can see what it did!


Pattern made up on the fly, just a razorshell pattern with a 10-stitch-wide repeat, knit over 150 stitches. I had less than a yard of yarn left at the end, so I really used every bit of the skein.

The center section is a little more green in person, more of a true halfway point between the two colors. It does have the overall effect I was hoping for, that of an obvious unidirectional trend while still maintaining some visual interest. I’d highly recommend the technique as being a way of controlling the colors in a spun yarn while still leaving some room for spontaneity.

If I were to do it again, I’d probably use fibers that weren’t quite so high-contrast to make the shift more subtle. I’d also put more of an effort into getting some of the intermediate batt layers that went into the slowly-shifting ply to have a better mixture of lime and green so that the transition between the two was slower.

Matchin’ Mittin’

Posted in FO, knitting by tchemgrrl on February 6, 2013

I knit some mittens to go with the hat from the previous entry:


These are a standard mitten layout with an ungusseted afterthought thumb. J really liked the hat pattern and asked that I designed the mittens so as to look as similar to the hat as possible.

I started by playing around with the bottom border. The X’s around the hat were wide enough that I could have fit 3 around the mitten with minor tweaks. However, the idea of 3 pattern repeats going around a hand didn’t seem right to me. I thought that the difference between the front and back would look unintentional and odd, and I also thought that the X pattern might look more similar if it was scaled down in size relative to the hat, because the mittens are so much narrower. So I did several doodles until I came up with something that allowed 4 pattern repeats to fit around the mitten. I then centered an X across the back of the hand to more clearly display the common genes of the two items.

Symmetry! Huzzah!

jan 27 2013 053

(The X’s on the mittens are squarer because the fabric hasn’t spent as much time stretched by an enormous head.)

As you can see the final result is thematically but not precisely matching. If I’d done the mittens first I probably could have adjusted the hat more easily so that they were an exact match. But, I also think that this set tells a nice little story to someone who is looking carefully and knows handknits. Sometimes, I like having little “tells” of provenance, and these mostly-matching items have just that.

J’s review of the mittens is that they are soft, warm, match his already-beloved hat, and fit in his coat pocket, though they’re not as windproof as his thick snow-shoveling gloves. They are excellent for posing.

He's taken, ladies.

(I love this man so much.)

Colorwork Hat

Posted in FO, knitting by tchemgrrl on January 31, 2013

I know, I said last week about how I wanted to knit more big scale projects, and the next few posts will be accessories. But I have pulled out a few skeins of the yarn that will become a sweater for J, which means the sweater is practically done, right? Ah, well.

hat and mittens

If you ever make hats and don’t have the book “Hats On!”, I’d highly recommend it. I’ve knit several of the patterns and have enjoyed them all. One nice thing about the book is that Charlene Schurch did such an excellent job of making each hat in various sizes. This makes it pretty easy to mix-and-match patterns, because you can look through the book to find something that will work with, say, 140 stitches for the particular head and yarn that you’re using. This hat is a mixture of two patterns from the book, with further minor adjustments for the tighter gauge I used. The earflaps and crown shaping are from the Danish Earflap Cap, while the X pattern is the alternate colorwork pattern for the Lusekofte Hat, which J preferred over the snowflake pattern on the earflap cap.

I really like the way the earflaps are constructed. The stitches you cast on form the inner hem, and the earflaps are formed one at a time using short rows. If you’ve ever done a short-row toe or heel on a sock, it’s exactly the same thing. Then after you knit the remainder of the hem (some of which is colorwork here), you pick up stitches from the cast on edge and knit them together with the live stitches to seal up the hem. It’s a technique I learned about in this book and have used on a number of other projects.

I used navy Dale Falk left over from the toddler rainbow sweater, and bought a skein of gray Falk to coordinate. I knit it at a somewhat tighter gauge than listed on the ball band–I think I was using US 2’s, since I wanted it to be fairly windproof.

The end result was very successful. J had expressed interest in having a tassel on top and ties for the ear flaps, but I didn’t have a chance to make either, or even to wash and block the hat, because as soon as I wove in the ends he put it on his head and pretty much hasn’t taken it off since. (He’s since decided that it doesn’t need them.)

He likes that the fabric is stiff enough to allow him to do this with the earflaps when he’s indoors:

He really wears the hat like this.

When he walked into knitting group like that I could see several people trying to figure out how I had shaped the earflaps so as to get them to stick out like that.

Quick Gift

Posted in FO, handspun, knitting, made with handspun by tchemgrrl on January 17, 2013

My knitting group has been going through a certified Cuppow craze. Cuppows are small plastic lids that turn wide-mouthed Mason jars into travel mugs. They’re convenient and cute and ecologically minded and cleverly-named, and so are just about the most Ithaca thing imaginable. (There’s even now a locally made version made of metal being sold at the co-op, for those who avoid plastics.) Their use spread like wildfire in the knitting group, to the point where we all went in on a large wholesale purchase together.

It being a knitting group, within a few weeks, everyone had designed their own way of protecting the jar and displaying their knitting. L’s had no bottom, K’s and a different K’s had bases and started from the bottom, but involved different numbers of yarn strands, needles, and stitches cast on, and at least one other person’s made some but I don’t see them in her projects. I worked mine top-down and played around with various stripe and stitch patterns so as to use up leftovers.

I was able to complete a whole one of these in a single knitting group session, so they’re a ridiculously quick knit and are GREAT for very small bits of leftovers. The gray stripe in the last cozy came from a ball of yarn about the diameter of a quarter and ended up looking perfectly at home.

The stitch patterns and yarn combos were made up more or less totally on the fly. I was really happy with how they came out, and the recipients seemed to enjoy them too. I also think this would be a good project for beginner handspun, where you could actually handle it and enjoy it all the time. A winner all around.

Combined with a Mason jar full of tea-making supplies and a Cuppow, they’re a quick, inexpensive, homey gift. We’re always trying to make the holidays more homemade, and these fit in pretty well with the Apple butter and the local wines and the handsewn gift bags.

Mason Jar sleeves

Mason Jar Sleeve

Fits a standard wide-mouth Mason jar.

-Ability to do, or willingness to learn: knitting in the round, decreases, colorwork (optional).
-Between 0.5 and 0.75 ounces of worsted weight yarn, or about 50 yards.
-Size 8US needles, either double-pointed or an appropriate combination of circulars to deal with small circumferences. (Gauge about 4 st/inch, 6 rows/inch, but it’s pretty forgiving.)

Cast on 36 stitches, and join without twisting.

Knit 5 rows of garter stitch, then begin stockinette section. The stockinette section can be a chance to sample a colorwork pattern you’ve been thinking of, or simply knit a plain or striped stockinette pattern that is pleasing to you.

Knit for about 4 inches.

Purl one round, then knit one round even. (This will form a neat turn for the base of the sleeve.)

Decrease 4 stitches evenly across every round until you have 8 stitches. Cut a long yarn tail, thread it through the last stitches, and pull tight. Throw it in the wash for a cycle to full slightly if it seems loose.


Posted in FO, handspun, knitting, made with handspun by tchemgrrl on January 11, 2013

In early November I went on a short business trip that involved about 10 hours on a bus and plenty of downtime in between.

I usually turn to shawls when this happens, and this time was no different.

The Eze shawlette was in the holiday issue of IK that I’d picked up shortly before my trip, and the short but still non-repeating pattern appealed to me. The Yak-merino that I spun up this past spring seemed like it would go well, so on the most total of total whims, I grabbed the skein, the copy of IK, and a pair of needles that seemed about right on my way out the door.


Working on the project provided was exactly what I’d hoped for–a pleasant layer of complexity, but very easy to work on in little bits of time or in long stretches on the bus between naps. The yarn doesn’t shed as much as I’d feared, though the yak does obscure the lace just a bit.


I made a slight modification to the pattern by repeating one section of lace because I wanted to use up all of the yarn. Of course, then I had been about one row over-optimistic and needed to end the lace pattern one row before the end. Not too bad, though–the droplets look like hanging bells instead.

This was a really fast knit. I started it on a Wednesday and wove in all the ends at the next Saturday’s spinning guild meeting. Amazing what 48 hours more-or-less to oneself will do, even when one is spiraling down into a bad cold. (Maybe because of that; I was all on my own in NYC and went to bed at 6pm. Plenty of cozy knitting time.)

120512 009

The shawl seemed very small when finished, but opened up enough after blocking to be okay, though still quite small. If I were to knit it again, I’d start with more yardage and plan on adding a few repeats in.

Baby Sweater

Posted in FO, handspun, knitting, made with handspun by tchemgrrl on September 20, 2012

I mentioned last week that a Baby Sweater Emergency jumped on me recently. A coworker is going to be a first-time grandmother soon, and I had some yarn I spun up a while ago that I thought would be just perfect for this particular little dude.


The pattern is Paxton (Rav link) in the newborn size. I’ve actually knit this pattern before, when the Toddler was in utero: this seems to be the Year Of Knitting From the Same Pattern More than Once for me. As I did with Hitchhiker, though, I made some changes the second time through. I put cables along the raglan decreases, and then from the underarm to the hem. Not only is it decorative, but I felt like the added density of cables at places where hems usually are would add some stability to the garment.

The yarn is a handspun, chain-plied merino-tencel blend that I apparently never blogged about, being spun in the very early days of the Toddler’s life (mostly in the brief moments he happily laid on his diaper changing table, amazed by his mobile oh my GOD how was he ever that small.)

baby sweater yarn

One interesting thing about the yarn was that I specifically spun it for a baby sweater. I knew from my experience with the other Paxton that a newborn size sweater would use about 4 ounces of DK weight handspun, and that the sleeves would take up a little less than a third of the total fiber. I also knew that the sleeves would be about 1/4 the width of the body. Because I wanted the stripes to be of roughly equal width, I spun the singles for the body from the full width of the dyed top, but split the top destined for the sleeves into 4 equal-sized pieces. The length of each color for the sleeve yarn, therefore, was about 1/4 the width of the length of each color for the body, making the sleeve stripes approximately equal.

This was a fun experiment, and a successful one. (It’s also the one that I thought about when I started working on the rainbow cardigan, and one of the reasons I was thinking about this yarn at the moment I realized that this soon-to-arrive baby was Dangerously Undersweatered.) One thing I didn’t fully account for was that I should have adjusted the length of my chains as I plied to minimize color mixing–you’ll notice that there aren’t as many distinct light areas in the sleeves compared to the body, and that’s because they were so short that they ended up getting mixed with the colors to either side. I’d certainly consider doing this again, and would try to remember to adjust chain length accordingly next time for better matching between sleeves and body.

L’s Vest

Posted in FO, knitting by tchemgrrl on August 27, 2012

This is a new little vest for my new little niece.

L's vest

I started working on this early in the summer, but set it aside in all the Tour and Games fun. When her mom went to the hospital and was then sent home with the baby still in her, I got back to working on it in earnest, with the goal of being able to tell the universe that everything was ready and that baby L could show up Any Time Now.

She arrived after the knitting was complete, but before I’d woven in all the ends. The Universe was listening, but also impatient with my procrastination.

The pattern is Just a Little Undershirt from the summer ’09 Interweave Knits, with a few minor mods for gauge. I swore up and down that I owned this particular issue of IK, but I ultimately needed to borrow it from a knitting friend (thanks dearmary!). The drawstring is designed so that it can fit babies at various ages. Tighten it and shrink the neckline to fit a newborn, loosen it or remove entirely for a larger baby.

The pattern was fine, perfectly straightforward, and the FO turned out cute. It’s a good alternative to a baby sweater for a summertime baby, and a good not-first-child alternative to a blanket (which I’m sure my stepbrother and stepsister-in-law have TONS of from their oldest).

The purple yarn was some unlabeled sock yarn that I got in the yarn swap, the lighter color was some white Dale Baby Ull that, thanks to the slight crocking of the sock yarn, is now a lovely very pale pink. This might be the first case I’ve ever seen of bleeding yarn leading to an improvement in the FO!

TdF Day 5

Posted in FO, spinning, Tour de Fleece, WIP by tchemgrrl on July 4, 2012

TdF day 5

Finished the Starcroft Fiber yarn–colorway “Lobster Bake”, Maine Island sheep’s wool roving is the fiber, ~225 yards for 4 ounces, and a pretty good yardage for the thickness; I think it’s worsted+ for thickness. Lightly spun singles with a bit extra plying twist, as I like the yarn that results from that combo, particularly for a somewhat rustic fiber like this one.

As I showed yesterday, I plied this yarn on the spindle. It was getting pretty fat by the end, but I plowed through until the end. After my ridiculous plying attempt of over 7 ounces on a spindle, splitting an ill-behaved 4 ounce cop seems like, well, a cop-out. (ouch.)

I also plied a bit of extra singles I had, and am now eyeing the shoebox with lots of scrap singles balls. I’m thinking of making a scrappy yarn like one of my local spinning friends often does with amazing results. I’m thinking of having one ply be naturals/grays/browns and the other ply be colors and brighter whites. We’ll see.

A little silk, and I did some more of the BFL singles but didn’t get a pic. I’ll show the progress on that tomorrow, by which time I hope to have finished the bobbin.

Little Big Vest

Posted in FO, knitting by tchemgrrl on June 29, 2012

It may take me longer to write this post than it did to knit this thing:

Little vest

The Toddler looks good in vests, and I’m pretty sure he will have outgrown his current crop by the time the weather cools off again.

I found this ridiculously fat yarn (Schaefer Kathleen in the Mr. Greenjeans colorway) in the freebie bucket at the yarn swap and I couldn’t leave it alone. So I took some numbers from the Knitters’ Handy Book of Patterns, made some minor modifications to account for my kid’s big round belly, and just sat down and knit 2/3rds of it in a single sitting, even after ripping out to make another little change. Not too shabby.

The weather’s been really warm here so I haven’t had a chance to try it on him yet, but when I hold it up to him it looks just a little big. Since he probably won’t wear this for another 2 or 3 months, that’s perfect.